Friday, April 24, 2009

Wrong or Stupid?

Well, like clockwork, within one measely day of my categorical statement the Flyers cannot steal a road game with this defense and goaltender, they promptly go into Pittsburgh and shut out the Penguins.

Sure, it would be churlish to point out this is Biron’s first play-off shut-out in twenty starts (a span in which Biron allowed one goal exactly zero times). The Flyers have demonstrated- one game in twenty- they can steal a game with defense and goal-keeping.

Now, I am not uncivil, and I am here to take my medicine. It is a tasty medicine indeed- any night that ends up with Crosby whining to the officials as he takes multiple frustration penalties is a real good one.

I do want to take a moment to shower some love on one Flyer who played his best game since arriving here in October: Andrew Alberts.

In the last three games, I honestly think he’s been the team’s best defenseman- or at least the best outside the top pair of Coburn and Timonen (and yes, Randy Jones was a +2 last night). But last night, Alberts was just determined, even cruel. He is a pretty big guy, tall at least- and with that deadly mix the Penguins have at center (Staal is their third option? That is rough)- he is out there against guys who can play. Lately, he has had a little Kjell Samuelson in him, just leaning on guys and inelegantly depositing them into the wall. He led the team in official hits last night- and while that is an annoying statistic, he has been getting the Penguins second tier wingers into the dashers and punishing them. He was in one those guys who keep pushing guys when they’re down, you know?

On the other hand, something has to done about Briere, who is just killing the team right now. Danny has zero goals in five games, and much like the last two regular seasons, he is a “minus” at even strength. The power play stinks and he’s part of that unit too. Now, last night, he’s added “take a pair of horrid penalties” to his tired repertoire. Somehow he was credited with a “hit”- probably when he took that roughing penalty for boarding a guy on a routine icing.

Briere plays on the third/fourth line- which is a mistake. His game is a skilled one- and he is out there with guys who aren’t looking to make skill plays- setting up fifteen, twenty feet from the net looking for a Briere pass. They’re mucking n the corners and clogging up the net looking for a garbage tally. Briere used to generate space in the offense zone because guys were afraid to move on him aggressively- he was a player designed to punish you through speed and skill for getting out of position. Now, they just run at him, and he has no one to bury the puck if he gives it up. The Flyers’ had an early third period power play, Briere had the puck along the wall at the near circle, looking out— and the Penguins just pressured him, knocked him down, took the puck.

That is not he Briere of 2006 0r 2007, where for all his faults he was a weapon with the man-advantage. Now he lacks the agility to get away from trouble or create it. He isn’t a defensive player or a role player. I don’t know what he can do right now- but it isn’t enough to justify a regular shift. I’d honestly scratch him. He cannot play with the top six forwards and is a negative with a mucking/defensive line. I guess with the shortened bench you can keep him in uniform for the power play- but he isn’t doing much there either. I’m inclined to try someone else: Giroux is only playing fourteen minutes and he is darned skilled?

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